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Avantor IPO: Preliminary Thoughts

Chemical company Avantor Inc. has taken the first steps towards a public offering. Its SEC filing uses the standard placeholder figure of $100 million, but Renaissance Capital reports that this company could raise up to $1.5 billion. Avantor is owned by private equity firm New Mountain Capital, and this IPO is underwritten by Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan.

As we do not know the pricing terms nor Avantor’s aimed market capitalization, it is not possible to conclusively state whether Avantor is a good buy or not. For now, here are some of the fundamental facts which investors will need to pay attention to for this IPO.

Company History and Growth

Avantor was first founded as J.T. Baker in 1904, and was acquired in 2010 by New Mountain for $280 million. In its own words from its S-1 filing, Avantor provides “approximately six million products, including products we make as well as products from approximately 4,000 core suppliers across the globe.” In addition to products such as chemicals and reagents, Avantor also provides services such as “Onsite lab and production, clinical, equipment, MarketSource procurement & sourcing and biopharmaceutical material scale-up and development.”

Avantor also appears to have solid opportunities for growth. It is currently on focused on expanding overseas, particularly in China, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe. It has a strong focus on healthcare, which will continue to grow in importance across most of the world thanks to aging populations. Avantor also operates in the education and government industries, and government spending could also ramp up in coming years in scientific endeavors, as shown by growing Democratic concern over climate change.

Fundamentally, Avantor’s business appears to be set on a solid footing. It is not overly dependent on any one industry or geographic region as its businesses are well spread out, and it has potential to grow.

Avantor’s Finances and Mergers

But while Avantor’s business has potential to grow, there are some financial caveats which are obscured by recent transactions. In 2016, Avantor purchased Nusil, a supplier of silicone products. In 2017, Avantor purchased laboratory supplier VWR Corp. for $6.4 billion.

As a result of these mergers, Avantor’s revenue dramatically rose for reasons other than growth. Revenue went from $517.7 million in the nine months ending September 30, 2017 to $4.4 billion in the same timeframe in 2018. This eightfold growth largely happened because VWR was folded into Avantor, but Avantor does point that $400 million of the $3.8 billion increase did come from growth.

While the business is much larger now, Avantor faces some financial difficulties. Avantor fell from a net income of $12.7 million in 2015 to a net loss of $145.3 million in 2017, though net losses then shrunk to $33.6 million in the nine months ending September 30, 2018.

But the much bigger concern is Avantor’s indebtedness. Avantor reports that as of September 30, 2018, it had $7.2 billion in outstanding debt and $8.2 billion in long-term liabilities due to its recent acquisitions. The situation is not too dangerous as $7.1 billion of the debt will not be due for over five years and Avantor does own over $10 billion in total assets. On the other hand, Avantor is threatened by an inconsistent cash flow which has been both positive and negative over the past few years.

Investors may also be discouraged by how Avantor intends to use the raised IPO funds. The company issued $2 billion of Senior Preferred stock to VWR investors upon acquisition, and it will be using the raised funds to buyback those shares. Any remaining funds would be used for general corporate purposes, but Avantor will more likely have to occur more debt for any further buybacks. Still, while Avantor’s financial picture could be made clearer over time as it finishes integrating various sections of VWR, its financial health appears generally positive.

Final Thoughts

IPOs are always risky, and we cannot firmly state whether Avantor will be a good buy until we know its planned valuation and how much it aims to raise. But there is a lot to like about this business. It has potential to grow, has a stable financial condition despite some concerns, and has good underwriters.

While it will be some time before investors can make a firm decision, Avantor should be watched during the roadshow and when it announces its pricing. Depending on the price, Avantor could be one of the better IPOs of 2019.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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As Uber, Slack, And Airbnb Prepare For IPOs, Investors Should Compare These Firms To…Whom? – Seeking Alpha

Tech firms like Facebook (FB), Google (GOOG), Apple (AAPL), and Amazon (AMZN) defy easy classification because they operate or impact so many different industries. So when a company like Uber (PRIVATE:UBER), Lyft (PRIVATE:LYFT), or Airbnb (PRIVATE:AIRBNB) goes public, how should Wall Street view it?

Investors, especially institutions, normally evaluate a company’s performance by comparing it to other firms in the same industry. For example, the S&P and Dow Jones have created several stock indices in which investors can benchmark one company’s performance to the rest of the group in industries like transportation, energy, consumer staples, and healthcare.

However, though Apple generates most of its revenue from hardware sales of iPhones and computers, CEO Tim Cook recently said that he expects the company to generate “material” revenue from health services this year. Facebook is a social media network that also sells virtual reality headsets from Oculus. Amazon is an e-commerce platform that also makes original movies and TV shows. All of these companies also offer payment services.

Uber, which is likely to go public this year, has already disrupted several industries and have expanded beyond on demand car service into e-commerce, food delivery, tourism, scooters, and autonomous vehicles.

No easy classifications in the digital age

The emergence of high-speed Internet and mobile devices makes industry classification outdated because tech firms can easily (and quickly) blur such boundaries, some experts argue.

“Times have changed,” according to 2016 piece published in the Harvard Business Review. “Industry walls are disintegrating at a rapid pace…Today, technology is just a standard part of corporate infrastructure, like operations or marketing. It’s not an industry in itself.”

The article was authored by Yoram Wind, a professor of marketing at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Megan Beck, chief product and insights officer at machine learning startup OpenMatters, and Barry Libert, chairman at OpenMatters.

“These tech companies, which are remarkable for beating out historic leaders like Exxon despite their relative youth, are all digital platform organizations that leverage a growing and virtual network of suppliers and customers,” the article said.

When a company goes public today, it receives a General Industry Classification System designation. Launched in 1999 by S&P Dow Jones Indices and MCSI, the GICS categorizes companies into one of 156 sub-industry groupings “according to its principal business activity.” GICS further organizes those sub-industry groupings into 69 industries, 24 industry groups, and 11 sectors.

If that already sounds complicated, consider that the S&P Dow Jones and MCSI has had to revise GICS several times in recent years, including renaming “Telecommunications Sector” to “Communications Services,” creating a new sub-industry called “Internet Services & Infrastructure” under the “IT Services,” and moving e-commerce companies from “Information Technology” to “Consumer Discretionary.”

Instead, the authors of the Harvard Business Review piece propose using just four categories:

  • Asset Builders: companies that make and sell physical things
  • Service Providers: companies that use people to offer services
  • Technology Creators: companies that generate and deliver intellectual property (software and data)
  • Network Orchestrators: companies facilitate transactions and interactions within a network

“Instead of focusing on vertical industries, it’s time to look at business models instead,” the article said.

“Our research has shown that companies that build and manage digital platforms, particularly those that invite a broad network of participants to share in value creation (such as how we all add content to Facebook’s platform or that anyone can sell goods on Amazon’s), achieve faster growth, lower marginal cost, higher profits, and higher market valuations,” the piece said. “For organizations like these, business model is a better way of identifying competitors and comparing performance.”

Peer groupings and executive compensation

Another factor to consider is executive compensation. Companies use GICS classifications to determine how much to pay CEOs and other top executives by comparing their compensation to their counterparts in similar companies/industries.

But such methods are highly subjective; for example, Apple developed two sets of peer groups to benchmark executive compensation, according to its proxy statement.

Primary Peer Group: Alphabet (Google), Amazon, AT&T, Cisco Systems, Comcast, Disney, EMC, Facebook, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, HP Inc., IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, Qualcomm, Time Warner, Twenty-First Century Fox, Verizon

Secondary Peer Group: 3M, American Express, Boeing, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble

That’s more than two dozen companies from an eclectic mix of industries. Indeed, it might seem odd that Apple considers as peers companies that make soda, sneakers, and aircraft.

Institutional Shareholder Services, a powerful proxy advisory service, now monitors and evaluates the peer groupings companies use to justify executive pay.

“ISS will review cases where the standard methodology appears to have produced inappropriate peers and may adjust peer groups in these cases,” the firm said. “The basic principles of the methodology will apply: peers should come from similar industries and be of similar size, and company peers should be prioritized where possible.”

Classifying tech unicorns

So what kind of peers would be appropriate for some top unicorns? SharesPost has compared Airbnb to online travel firms like Expedia, Priceline, and TripAdivsor.

You could also argue that major hotel chains directly compete with Airbnb. Indeed, the company has partnered with merchants in other travel segments (e.g., rental car companies and airlines) to create joint incentives that resemble third-party loyalty programs longed favored by hotels. Airbnb has also created a “Journeys” program in which hosts not only provide lodging but also tours, transportation, meals, and activities like wine tasting or mountain climbing.

Slack (PRIVATE:SLACK) is a communications platform that provides messaging, video, and group chat services. That means it competes with Microsoft’s Skype, Facebook/Instagram, Apple, Google, and Zoom.

Uber obviously competes with traditional taxi services and car rental companies. But Uber also delivers food and retail goods, just like Amazon. Furthermore, Uber is investing in autonomous vehicles, which means it will compete with everyone from Alphabet to car makers like General Motors, Ford, and Tesla.

When unicorns like Uber and Airbnb go public, investors should pay attention to the company’s peer groupings, usually found in the proxy statement. The groupings will not only determine executive compensation for top executives but also provide a guide to how investors should compare their performances to presumably comparable companies and industries. Keep in mind though that these peer groupings are highly subjective, more art than science.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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Uber narrows losses, revenue growth slows on road to IPO – The Straits Times

SAN FRANCISCO • Uber last Friday released earnings figures that showed its loss narrowed in the final quarter of last year while revenue growth slowed as the ride-sharing giant prepares for a stock market debut.

The loss for the final three months of last year amounted to US$865 million (S$1.2 billion), compared with US$1.1 billion in the same period a year earlier.

The San Francisco-based firm reported revenue of US$3 billion, a 25 per cent increase from a year earlier. That’s high by many standards, but significantly lower than Uber’s third quarter year-over-year growth of 38 percent – a growth rate that was itself only about half the rate of six months prior.

Uber remains a private company, but it routinely discloses some earnings information. Chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi, who is steering the high-value start-up to a stock market debut this year, has promised greater transparency as he seeks to restore confidence in the global ride-sharing leader hit by a wave of misconduct scandals.

Revenue for the full year rose 43 per cent to US$11.3 billion, with Uber’s annual loss shrinking 15 per cent to US$1.8 billion, according to the start-up.

Uber operates its ride-share business in dozens of countries and has expanded to new areas including food delivery, electric scooters and bikes. It is seen as the largest of the venture-backed start-ups with a presumed valuation of some US$70 billion. “Last year was our strongest yet, and the fourth quarter set another record for engagement on our platform,” Uber chief financial officer Nelson Chai said in a released statement.

Uber is eyeing a valuation above US$100 billion (S$136 billion) for its much-anticipated share offering due this year, which would be the biggest ever in the tech sector.

“Our ride-sharing business maintained category leadership in all regions we serve, Uber Freight gained exciting traction in the US, Jump e-bikes and e-scooters are on the road in over a dozen cities.”

Based on gross bookings, Uber Eats has apparently become the largest online food delivery business outside China, said Mr Chai.

Uber is eyeing a valuation above US$100 billion for its much-anticipated share offering due this year, which would be the biggest-ever in the tech sector.

Sources said the global ride-sharing giant is considering speeding up its plans for an initial public offering to the first half of 2019, rather than the second half of the year.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

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Around 10% of companies preparing for IPO say climate change is a risk – Quartz

When Levi’s recently filed to go public, its registration documents dutifully listed all the potential risks to its business, such as shifting market demand and changing trade policies, as required by regulators.

Levi’s is a company built on denim, which means it relies on cotton crops. A warming planet will have an impact on how and where those crops grow. Climate change, it said, “could have a long-term adverse impact on our business and results of operations.”

A decade ago, the share of companies mentioning “climate change” in their IPO registration documents—the S-1 and F-1 forms required by the US Securities and Exchange Commission for domestic and foreign filers, respectively—started to rise. Back then, about 5% of companies cited climate change in their pre-IPO filings. More recently, between 10% and 15% of companies mention climate change in these disclosures (it’s currently trending closer to 10%), suggesting that more businesses are at least considering it when planning for the future.

Registering for an IPO is a disclosure-heavy process, giving potential investors a comprehensive overview of what company execs think are the biggest risks and opportunities for their firms as they drum up interest for a stock market listing.

Energy companies, unsurprisingly, comprise the majority of filers mentioning climate change in these documents. For example, Northwest Oil & Gas Trading Company said in December, “Possible regulation related to global warming and climate change could have an adverse effect on our operations and demand for oil and gas.”

But a wide variety of companies now mention climate change in their disclosures for potential investors, often in the section highlighting “risk factors.” This, for example, is how Levi’s described it in its Feb. 13 filing:

Climate change and related regulatory responses may adversely impact our business.

There is increasing concern that a gradual increase in global average temperatures due to increased concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will cause significant changes in weather patterns around the globe and an increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters. Changes in weather patterns and an increased frequency, intensity and duration of extreme weather conditions could, among other things, adversely impact the cultivation of cotton, which is a key resource in the production of our products, disrupt the operation of our supply chain and the productivity of our contract manufacturers, increase our product costs and impact the types of apparel products that consumers purchase. As a result, the effects of climate change could have a long-term adverse impact on our business and results of operations.

A week earlier, BJ’s Wholesale Club, a membership-based retailer that sells bulk volumes of groceries, also dubbed climate change a risk factor:

Factors associated with climate change could adversely affect our business.

We use natural gas, diesel fuel, gasoline and electricity in our distribution and sale operations. Increased government regulations to limit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions may result in increased compliance costs and legislation or regulation affecting energy inputs could materially affect our profitability. Climate change could affect our ability to procure needed commodities at costs and in quantities we currently experience. Climate change may be associated with extreme weather conditions, such as more intense hurricanes, thunderstorms, tornadoes and snow or ice storms, as well as rising sea levels. We also sell a substantial amount of gasoline, the demand for which could be impacted by concerns about climate change and which could face increased regulation.

The plant-based protein company, Beyond Meat, mentioned “climate change” 16 times in its Nov. 16 filing. It appears among the risks to its business, but the firm also framed awareness of the issue as an opportunity:

Our brand is uniquely positioned to capitalize on growing consumer interest in great-tasting, nutritious, convenient, higher protein and plant-based foods. We have also tapped into growing public awareness of major issues connected to animal protein, including human health, climate change, resource conservation and animal welfare. Simply put, our products aim to enable consumers to “Eat What You Love” without the downsides of conventional animal protein.

In some cases, companies think climate change is important enough to mention even when it isn’t directly relevant to their business. AudioEye, which sells products and services to help people with disabilities navigate online, brought it up in its pre-IPO filing in September last year:

Climate Change

We do not believe there is anything unique to our business which would result in climate change regulations having a disproportional effect on us as compared to U.S. industry overall.

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IPO of remaining 50 pct of Kuwaiti bourse seen in Q4 2019 or Q1 2020 – official

official@

KUWAIT, Feb 17 (Reuters) – The initial public offering for the remaining 50 percent of shares in the Kuwaiti bourse will take place in the fourth quarter of 2019 or the first quarter of 2020, said Abdulaziz AlMarzouq, commissioner of the Capital Markets Authority and vice chairman of the bourse’s privatization committee.

On Thursday, a consortium led by Kuwait’s National Investment Co. and including the Athens bourse won a tender to acquire 44 percent of the Kuwait stock exchange. (Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy; Editing by Mark Potter)

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Why Virgin Trains USA Canceled Its IPO – The Motley Fool

Like a big moving train that stops abruptly on the track, the Virgin Trains USA initial public offering (IPO) was abruptly canceled earlier this week. 

Cancellations are the exception rather than the rule with IPOs, particularly during the long bull market we’re still experiencing. Here’s a brief look at why Virgin Trains USA won’t be on the stock market — at least for now — and what publicly traded alternatives exist for train aficionados.

A Virgin Trains train in the U.K.

Image source: Virgin Trains.

Disembarkation

It seems Virgin Trains USA was presented with better funding options than an IPO. The company’s senior vice president for corporate affairs, Ben Porritt, told Reuters that “[a]s we explored a public offering, a number of alternative financing sources became available that allow us to keep the company private and meet our growth strategies.” 

Neither he nor the company has specified what those “alternative financing sources” might be, nor the amount(s) involved. Virgin Trains USA also hasn’t commented on whether it might relaunch its IPO sometime in the future.

Technically known as Brightline, the company is currently rebranding as Virgin Trains USA. It was to IPO under the latter name, which it licenses from British conglomerate Virgin Group in return for a scrap of equity and licensing fees. Brightline/Virgin Trains USA operates a commuter rail line connecting the populous south Florida cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. This operation was launched in early 2018.

Virgin Trains USA might have been quite a tough sell to the market. It hasn’t yet turned a profit, with a net loss of more than $87 million in the first nine months of its fiscal 2018 (its inaugural revenue-producing year).

Huge costs are barreling down the tracks for the company, as it has ambitions to expand its service north to Orlando within a few years, and following that, cross the state over to Tampa. It also holds the rights to develop a commuter rail line from Las Vegas to Victorville, California, a route that the company plans to eventually stretch to the Los Angeles area.

Now arriving on track 2…

So for Virgin Trains USA, perhaps it’s better to stay private for now. We can imagine that those prohibitive build-out costs will have a deleterious effect on profitability — and if there’s one thing investors don’t like, it’s a string of deep red numbers on the bottom line.

It’s kind of a shame, though, because the company would have been a rare bird on the stock exchange as a commuter rail company. It’s always good for investors to have as much variety and choice as possible in stocks.

It’d also be good to see a determined commuter rail company raise several hundred million dollars in funding. We Americans are far too dependent on the automobile, which can negatively affect our societal and environmental well-being. A successful Virgin Trains USA IPO might have encouraged investment in other train projects throughout the country.

Still, as investors, we shouldn’t take Virgin Trains USA’s retreat as a sign that the railroad sector as a whole is a lost cause. In fact, it’s thriving these days, as indicated by the recent share prices of some of the major, publicly traded players.

Most of these, like CSX (NASDAQ:CSX) and Norfolk Southern (NYSE:NSC), can be purchased directly. Meanwhile, BNSF Railway is a wholly owned subsidiary of mighty Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A) (NYSE:BRK-B). Berkshire is the investment locomotive, if you will, of legendary investor Warren Buffett.

^SPX Chart

^SPX data by YCharts.

As indicated in the chart above, Canadian National Railway (NYSE:CNI) and CSX stock have been doing gangbusters lately. Both are beneficiaries of strong demand for the freight rail services they specialize in, and have done well capitalizing on this opportunity. Canadian National Railway had an excellent 2018 and recently declared a dividend raise, while CSX is posting significant improvements in both financial and operational metrics. 

Berkshire’s BNSF, meanwhile, has lately recorded impressive growth on both the top and bottom lines.

So it’s not like the withdrawal of Virgin Trains USA’s IPO will leave the stock exchange without any railway operators. It’s just a shame an interesting and unique one won’t be available to invest in.

Eric Volkman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Berkshire Hathaway (B shares) and Canadian National Railway. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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U.S. IPO Week Ahead: New Filings Will Indicate March Activity During February Lull – Seeking Alpha

The IPO market has a bye week as we enter the annual February lull. Just one SPAC is on the IPO calendar. Instead of going public, companies are waiting out the short holiday week, while preparing their year-end financials.

Any big IPO news will likely come in the form of new filings. A company that files during the week ahead will be able to price its offering in mid-March. Based on the recent performance of our IPO Index, we are expecting a healthy number of IPOs in March.

U.S. IPO Calendar

Issuer
Business

Deal Size
Market Cap

Price Range
Shares Filed

Top
Bookrunners

Acamar Partners Acq. (ACAMU)
Miami, FL

$300M
$375M

$10
30,000,000

Goldman
Deutsche Bank

Blank check company led by the Executive Chairman of travel retailer Dufry.

Editor’s Note: The summary bullets for this article were chosen by Seeking Alpha editors.

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As Uber Prepares for I.P.O., Its Losses Pile Up – The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — Technology companies rarely make money before they go public. Twitter was unprofitable when it listed on the stock market. So were Snap, Spotify and SurveyMonkey.

For Uber, the question as the ride-hailing giant prepares for a public offering is even bigger than whether it can make money. That’s because the company, the most prominent tech start-up of its generation, will set the bar for other well-known tech companies like Slack and Lyft as they also stampede toward the stock market this year.

So far, Uber is not doing itself any favors on profits.

The company reported on Friday that it had narrowed its net loss in the fourth quarter of 2018 from a year earlier. But excluding certain one-time items, including the sale of some of its businesses, Uber’s losses for the quarter rose 88 percent from the previous year, to $842 million.

The losses were a result of Uber’s increasing its spending as it tries to outmuscle competitors, many of which have intensified their efforts to add riders and drivers. Uber has responded by offering bigger incentives and more promotions to fend off rivals like DoorDash, Lyft and other ride-hailing and food-delivery services.

Uber made its financial disclosure as it hurtles toward what is set to be one of the biggest-ever public offerings by a tech company. A transportation colossus, Uber was privately valued at more than $70 billion last year, and proposals from investment bankers suggest that it could be worth as much as $120 billion after going public. The share sale will create enormous windfalls for Uber’s many investors, and for its founders and early employees.

As a private company, Uber is not required to disclose financial results. But it has regularly done so over the past two years to inform investors about its business, and perhaps to keep the depth of its losses from coming as a surprise later.

The latest set of figures, probably Uber’s last as a private company, will be closely scrutinized. Many investors initially give young and fast-growing tech start-ups a pass for losing money, but questions about whether such companies can ultimately be profitable eventually catch up with them. Investors criticized Twitter for racking up losses before it finally began to make money last year, and they have pushed down Snap’s share price since its public offering, partly because the company is still deeply unprofitable.

In a statement, Uber’s chief financial officer, Nelson Chai, did not address the company’s losses. He said Uber had “maintained category leadership” in its ride-hailing business, and he noted other bright spots, including the company’s freight-management business and nascent e-bike and scooter program.

Uber has a long history of spending large sums of money. Ride-hailing is inherently an expensive business that requires companies to expand into new markets for growth, pay to recruit drivers and lower prices to grab business away from competitors.

Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive, has been under pressure to pare its losses, and the company has pulled out of money-losing markets like Russia and Southeast Asia.

Some of the company’s losses have been overshadowed by its explosive growth. In 2018, Uber increased its total bookings — what it charges customers for rides and food delivery — to $50 billion, up 45 percent from 2017. Net revenue was $11.3 billion, a 43 percent increase.

The company’s net revenue for last year’s fourth quarter was $3 billion, a 25 percent increase from a year earlier, and its gross bookings jumped 37 percent, to $14.2 billion. The company has $6.4 billion in cash, and its net loss was $865 million.

But Uber’s profit margins have declined as it cut prices to match competitors and spent money on expanding its food-delivery business, Uber Eats. The margins are also smaller on Uber Eats orders because the company pays commissions to restaurants as well as delivery drivers.

Uber’s self-driving car program, which will probably not yield revenue for years, continues to burn cash. The company returned its autonomous vehicles to public roads in December after a 10-month hiatus, which was prompted when one of its vehicles fatally struck a pedestrian in Arizona.

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Hot IPO Stock Among These Top Stocks At New Highs – Investor’s Business Daily

The Dow Jones Industrial Average paced the major stock indexes with a more than 1% gain midday Friday. Top stocks hitting new highs that are in buy range include Edwards Lifesciences (EW) and AutoZone (AZO). Meanwhile, hot IPO stock Yeti (YETI) continued its impressive winning streak with a new high of its own.



X



Hot IPO…


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